The island nation of Malta says it has achieved herd immunity against Covid-19 after partially inoculating 70% of its adult population, with the government noting the vaccines managed to “drastically” decrease transmission of the virus.
At least 70% of Malta’s adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccine while 42% has been fully inoculated, the country’s health minister Chris Fearne said in an official statement.
While noting that the virus was still around, Fearne claimed that the country’s vaccine rollout has led to a 95% reduction in hospitalizations.
The EU member nation’s vaccine rollout has used shots made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BionTech.
Despite making the claim of herd immunity Malta intends to keep a national mask mandate in place till July.
While Malta’s vaccine rollout puts it in the top tier of nations it still trails countries like Bhutan, Seychelles and Israel—none of whom have explicitly claimed herd immunity.
While some estimates have placed the threshold for Covid-19 herd immunity at around 70% of the population gaining protection, either through vaccinations or past exposure to the virus the actual threshold for the virus remains unknown. The issue has been further complicated by the emergence of new variants which lower reduce vaccine efficacy and are more infectious. The World Health Organisation notes: “The proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known. This is an important area of research and will likely vary according to the community, the vaccine, the populations prioritized for vaccination, and other factors.”
While the drastic reduction in hospitalizations is likely a good indicator of the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing severe outcomes from Covid-19, it may not necessarily imply that Malta has reached herd immunity. More than half the adult population of the country has still not been fully vaccinated—something that is essential for robust protection—and the 42% figure does not include the country’s under-16 population, who can both get infected and spread the infection. According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, only 36.5% of Malta’s entire population—minors included—has been fully vaccinated so far, which is a long way away from even the most generous herd immunity estimates. Seychelles, which has fully vaccinated around 64.2% of its entire population is currently witnessing another Covid-19 outbreak. While the exact reason behind the African island nation’s latest wave of infections remains unclear—some have speculated that the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine may not be very effective in protecting against the disease. Earlier this month, the WHO expressed “very low confidence” in data provided by Sinopharm which has claimed that its vaccine is 78.1% effective after two doses.
30,509. That’s the total number of Covid-19 cases Malta has reported since the start of the pandemic—a relatively high number for a country that has a population of around 500,000. The country has also reported 418 deaths from the deadly disease.
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